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: Nation (5-11-07)
Where was our attention for the decade following the Gulf War in 1991? Were we so consumed by the companionable travesties of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, as well as by the Republicans' effort to impeach Clinton? Did we fully understand the Clinton Administration's doings in Bosnia and Kosovo? Did we properly take note of the rending of our political fabric when the Contract With (or was it on?) America was launched in 1994?
And what attention did we give to the thirteen-year campaign of sanctions and bombings of Iraq? For Barry Lando, in his useful new book Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, From Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush, sanctions were the weapon of mass destruction used against the Iraqi people to starve and reduce them to a Third World level of poverty. Lando's work opens our eyes to one of the most tragic episodes in the lengthy, sorry history of"Western" dealings with Iraq. He offers a well-researched account of Iraq's external (and, to a lesser extent, internal) history since the British carved that unlikely state out of the moribund Ottoman Empire in 1919. History doesn't change much as he invokes Col. T.E. Lawrence's well-known injunction of that moment:"The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour.... We are today not far from disaster." The British preferred Winston Churchill's imperial ambitions. We chose Bushes, a Clinton and their respective entourages. Either way, disaster was not far behind.
Iraq floats on a sea of oil, reputedly with the world's third-largest reserves. The Great Powers naturally have been drawn to it, but they have cared nothing for the country that might nominally exist. Churchill, Allen Dulles and the CIA, Donald Rumsfeld, our two George Bushes: All assisted the Sunni minority's oppression of the Shiite majority; they imposed a"royal" family of dubious lineage that never really had popular support; and they financed and encouraged a ruthless dictator who (among his other crimes) most assuredly gassed his own people and tens of thousands of Iranians. The iconic image of Rumsfeld in the 1980s embracing and supporting Saddam Hussein speaks well of American complicity.
The sanctions and bombings of the 1990s are directly linked to Bush's determination to invade Iraq in 2003 and attempt to remake it--again, in our image. History illuminates the present, and we would do well to absorb Lando's narration.
The United Nations imposed sanctions on Iraq as part of the run-up to the first Gulf War. The Security Council severed all imports and exports between Iraq and the world--from food and vaccines to hospital equipment and medical journals. Iraq imported 70 percent of its food, largely paid for by oil exports. The UN's writ is not meaningless--not when the United States and Great Britain rigorously enforced the sanctions. And to underline for the Iraqis where the muscle was, the two powers regularly bombed the country.
We estimate between 500,00 to 1 million Iraqis died in the 1990s, a very large proportion being children. To what end? Not, Lando maintains, to destroy Saddam Hussein's WMDs but to force him out. Bush I wisely listened to his military counselors and stopped short of occupying Iraq. His momentary good sense has inflated his reputation; make no mistake, he was passionately committed to Saddam's overthrow--whatever the cost. On his watch, the United States encouraged revolts by the Kurds and Shiites. Then Bush abandoned both and allowed Saddam to exact a terrible revenge on both groups. Yet all the while, he insisted that there would be no"normalized relations with the United States...until Saddam Hussein is out of there." And thus American policy took a new, more disastrous direction with Bush II's invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
The CIA badly miscalculated that sanctions, coupled with Iraq's devastating defeat, would result in a military coup, toppling Saddam. Anything but. The sanctions and Saddam's heightened repression insured his survival--much to the frustration of Western leaders.
During that first war, Secretary of State James Baker told the Iraqi foreign minister that"we will return you to the pre-industrial age." Baker's words were prophetic. The American-led coalition delivered 88,000 tons of bombs, equivalent, Lando notes, to seven Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs. The bombing unquestionably set out to destroy the civilian infrastructure, leveling oil refineries, electrical plants and transportation networks. And all this, Lando emphasizes, resulted in further civilian suffering. Seventeen of twenty electrical generating plants were seriously bombed, and eleven totally destroyed.
After one plant near Basra had been demolished early on, American bombers returned another dozen times."We're not going to tolerate Saddam Hussein," one Air Force planner said, and the bombing sent a message:"Fix that [Saddam], and we'll fix your electricity." Three-fourths of Iraq's population lived in cities, dependent on electricity for their factories, homes, water treatment plants and sewage treatment facilities. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney vigorously defended the"perfectly legitimate" bombing action."If I had to do it over again, I would do exactly the same thing," he said. Clearly, Cheney means what he says.
The sanctions worked only as partly intended: They imposed untold suffering on the population. Americans at the UN blocked a request to ship baby food because adults might use it. They vetoed sending a heart pill that contained a milligram of cyanide because tens of thousands of such pills could become a lethal weapon. The banned list included filters for water treatment plants, vaccines, cotton swabs and gauze, children's clothes, funeral shrouds. Somehow, even Vietnamese pingpong balls found their way to the proscribed list.
Sanctions devastated the country's medical system, once one of the best in the region. Sanctions insured that malnutrition would morph into virtual death sentences, as Lando notes. Babies died in incubators because of power failures; others were crippled with cerebral palsy because of insufficient oxygen supplies. As early as May 1991, a visiting Harvard medical team concluded that Iraq had a public health catastrophe.
Meanwhile, Bush's strategy of playing for a coup miserably failed. Conditions dramatically deteriorated. Streetcorners became barter bazaars, with people selling their possessions for food and medicine. Crime, prostitution, smuggling and kickbacks flourished. People merely wanted survival; political paralysis, not a coup, was the result. And Americans knew it. Lando quotes the ubiquitous"senior US official" who privately admitted that any popular uprising"is the least likely alternative." And yet the sanctions persisted.
Iraqis hoped for a better day with the new President, Bill Clinton. Alas! Clinton's background and his political calculus determined that he had to establish his macho credentials and his credibility with the right. He authorized a Tomahawk missile attack against Baghdad, supposedly in retaliation for Saddam's alleged plot to assassinate former President Bush. (The Kuwaiti-provided evidence, many believe, is quite tenuous.) In any event, Clinton's attack went off track and killed eight civilians, including a gifted artist. His UN Ambassador, Madeleine Albright, carefully monitored the ever-tightening sanctions. In late 1994 the New York Times reported on children in filthy hospitals, dying with diarrhea and pneumonia, people desperately seeking food, and Iraq's inability to sell its oil--the country faced"famine and economic collapse." Without doubt, the sanctions consolidated Saddam's power. UN Administrator Denis Halliday wrote that the people blamed the United States and the UN for their travails, not Saddam Hussein. Halliday resigned, refusing to administer a program that he called"genocide."
The promised relief from the UN-sponsored (and US-tolerated) Oil for Food program delivered little to stanch the suffering. Meantime, the West played its familiar games as corruption permeated the program, corruption well-documented in the Volcker Report. Iraq sold $64.2 billion of oil and received $34.5 billion worth of humanitarian goods. Iraq gained something, but the old habit of clandestine support for Iraq's regime continued as oil companies provided kickbacks of at least $1.8 billion to the Iraqi dictator. At the moment, Chevron is negotiating a"settlement" that would cost it $25-30 million in fines--and, of course, admit to no wrongdoing. What a bargain.
The present Iraq War and occupation is but another chapter in our melancholy, misguided and decidedly bipartisan relations with Iraq. Lando painfully underscores how we knew--and deliberately enforced--such policies just to heighten that civilian suffering. The chimera of Saddam's imminent overthrow only tightened the screws for the Iraqis.
And then Tony Blair, in March 2003, with outrageous chutzpah cited the dramatic increase in infant mortality as a justification for the new invasion of Iraq. Sanctions apparently no longer existed in his mind; the children had"died because of the nature of the regime under which they are living. Now, that is why we're acting." George Orwell would not have said it better.
Blair faithfully echoed what Bush II earlier said as he sought Congressional authorization for the use of force. He blamed the sorry plight of Iraqis on Saddam's search for WMDs."The world has tried economic sanctions," he said,"and watched Iraq use billions of dollars in illegal oil revenues to fund more weapons purchases, rather than providing for the needs of the Iraqi people." Did he mean sanctions were a failure?
When in March 2003, the Bush Administration launched its inevitable invasion, American forces confronted an empty shell of defenses and a dispirited, devastated and despairing populace. The invasion was a cakewalk. But our not-so wise policy-makers wanted more, and Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz promised our troops garlands of flowers as Iraqis would welcome their liberators. Some welcome. The American and British sanctions' policy had done its work quite well--painfully, devastatingly well. Remember: Much of this was pursued by the Clinton Administration, anxious to show that its statesmanship credentials could match any Bush. So the last word properly belongs to Secretary Albright. Although she belatedly disavowed her comments after the Iraq disaster was obvious to all except George W. Bush, nevertheless, she said of sanctions and bombings:"It was worth it."
Was it? Public figures rarely acknowledge their mistakes; they write self-serving memoirs instead. We would be hard-pressed to find any military and diplomatic strategy that so utterly failed as did the Iraq policy of the 1990s. And the unintended consequences are yet to be figured.
Reprinted with permission from the Nation. For subscription information call 1-800-333-8536. Portions of each week's Nation magazine can be accessed at http://www.thenation.com.
Posted on: Sunday, May 13, 2007 - 19:54
SOURCE: Excerpted from Japan Focus (Click here for the full text) (5-2-07)
World War II was a landmark in the development and deployment of technologies of mass destruction associated with air power, notably the B-29 bomber, napalm and the atomic bomb. An estimated 50 to 70 million people lay dead in its wake. In a sharp reversal of the pattern of World War I and of most earlier wars, a substantial majority of the dead were noncombatants.  The air war, which reached peak intensity with the area bombing, including atomic bombing, of major European and Japanese cities in its final year, had a devastating impact on noncombatant populations.
What is the logic and what have been the consequences—for its victims, for subsequent global patterns of warfare and for international law—of new technologies of mass destruction and their application associated with the rise of air power and bombing technology in World War II and after? Above all, how have these experiences shaped the American way of war over six decades in which the United States has been a major actor in important wars? The issues have particular salience in an epoch whose central international discourse centers on terror and the War on Terror, one in which the terror inflicted on noncombatants by the major powers is frequently neglected.
Strategic Bombing and International Law
Bombs had been dropped from the air as early as 1849 on Venice (from balloons) and 1911 in Libya (from planes). Major European powers attempted to use them in newly founded air forces during World War I. If the impact on the outcomes was marginal, the advance of air power alerted all nations to the potential significance of airpower in future wars.  A series of international conferences at the Hague beginning in 1899 set out principles for limiting air war and securing the protection of noncombatants from bombing and other attacks. The 1923 Hague conference crafted a sixty-two article “Rules of Aerial Warfare,” which prohibited “Aerial bombardment for the purpose of terrorizing the civilian population, of destroying or damaging private property not of a military character, or of injuring non-combatants.” It specifically limited bombardment to military objectives, prohibited “indiscriminate bombardment of the civilian population,” and held violators liable to pay compensation.  Securing consensus and enforcing limits, however, proved extraordinarily elusive then and since.
Throughout the long twentieth century, and particularly during and in the immediate aftermath of World War II, the inexorable advance of weapons technology went hand in hand with international efforts to place limits on killing and barbarism associated with war, particularly the killing of noncombatants in strategic or indiscriminate bombing raids.  This article considers the interplay of the development of powerful weapons and delivery systems associated with bombing and attempts to create international standards to curb the uses of bombing against noncombatants, with particular reference to the United States.
The strategic and ethical implications of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have generated a vast contentious literature, as have German and Japanese war crimes and atrocities. By contrast, the US destruction of more than sixty Japanese cities prior to Hiroshima has been slighted both in the scholarly literatures in English and Japanese and in popular consciousness in both Japan and the US. It has been overshadowed by the atomic bombing and by heroic narratives of American conduct in the “Good War”, an outcome not unrelated to the emergence of the US as a superpower. 
Arguably, however, the central technological, strategic and ethical breakthroughs that would leave their stamp on subsequent wars occurred in area bombing of noncombatants prior to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A.C. Grayling explains the different responses to firebombing and atomic bombing this way: “. . . the frisson of dread created by the thought of what atomic weaponry can do affects those who contemplate it more than those who actually suffer from it; for whether it is an atom bomb rather than tons of high explosives and incendiaries that does the damage, not a jot of suffering is added to its victims that the burned and buried, the dismembered and blinded, the dying and bereaved of Dresden or Hamburg did not feel.” 
If others, notably Germany, England and Japan led the way in area bombing, the targeting for destruction of entire cities with conventional weapons emerged in 1944-45 as the centerpiece of US warfare. It was an approach that combined technological predominance with minimization of US casualties in ways that would become the hallmark of the American way of war in campaigns from Korea and Indochina to the Gulf and Iraq Wars and, indeed define the trajectory of major wars since the 1940s. The result would be the decimation of noncombatant populations and extraordinary “kill ratios” favoring the US military. Yet for the US, victory would prove extraordinary elusive. This is one important reason why, six decades on, World War II retains its aura for Americans as the “Good War”, and why Americans have yet to effectively come to grips with questions of ethics and international law associated with their area bombing of Germany and Japan.
The twentieth century was notable for the contradiction between international attempts to place limits on the destructiveness of war and to hold nations and their military leaders responsible for violations of international laws of war (Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals and successive Geneva conventions, particularly the 1949 convention protecting civilians and POWs) and the systematic violation of those principles by the major powers.  For example, while the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals clearly articulated the principle of universality, the Tribunals, both held in cities that had been obliterated by Allied bombing, famously shielded the victorious powers, above all the US, from responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Telford Taylor, chief counsel for war crimes prosecution at Nuremberg, made the point with specific reference to the bombing of cities a quarter century later: 
"Since both sides had played the terrible game of urban destruction—the Allies far more successfully—there was no basis for criminal charges against Germans or Japanese, and in fact no such charges were brought . . . . Aerial bombardment had been used so extensively and ruthlessly on the Allied side as well as the Axis side that neither at Nuremberg nor Tokyo was the issue made a part of the trials."
From 1932 to the early years of World War II the United States was an outspoken critic of city bombing, notably but not exclusively German and Japanese bombing. President Franklin Roosevelt appealed to the warring nations in 1939 on the first day of World War II “under no circumstances [to] undertake the bombardment from the air of civilian populations or of unfortified cities.”  Britain, France and Germany agreed to limit bombing to strictly military objectives, but in May 1940 German bombardment of Rotterdam exacted 40,000 civilian lives and forced the Dutch surrender. Up to this point, bombing of cities had been isolated, sporadic and for the most part confined to the axis powers. Then in August 1940, after German bombers bombed London, Churchill ordered an attack on Berlin. The steady escalation of bombing targeting cities and their noncombatant populations followed. ...
World War II, building on and extending atavistic impulses deeply rooted in earlier civilizations and combining them with more destructive technologies, produced new forms of human depravity. German and Japanese crimes have long been subjected to international criticism from the war crimes tribunals of the 1940s to the present.  At Nuremberg and subsequent trials, more than 1,800 Germans were convicted of war crimes and 294 were executed. At the Tokyo Trials, 28 were indicted and seven were sentenced to death. At subsequent A and B class trials conducted by the allied powers between 1945 and 1951, 5,700 Japanese, Koreans and Taiwanese were indicted. 984 were initially sentenced to death (the sentences of 50 of these were commuted); 475 received life sentences, and 2,944 received limited prison terms. The result of military defeat, occupation, and war crimes tribunals has been protracted and profound reflection and self-criticism by significant groups within both countries. In the case of Germany—but not yet Japan—there has been meaningful official recognition of the criminal conduct of genocidal and other barbaric policies as well as appropriate restitution to victims in the form of public apology and substantial official reparations. For its part, the Japanese state continues to reject official reparations claims to such war victims as Korean and Chinese forced laborers and the military comfort women (sexual slaves), while the war remains a fiercely contested intellectual-political issue as demonstrated by the decades long conflicts over textbook treatments of colonialism and war, the Yasukuni shrine (the symbol of emperor-centered nationalism, empire and war), the military comfort women, and the Nanjing Massacre controversies. 
In contrast to these responses to the war in Germany and Japan, and even to the ongoing debate in the US about the uses of the atomic bomb, there has been virtually no awareness of, not to speak of critical reflection on, the US bombing of Japanese civilians in the months prior to Hiroshima. The systematic bombing of Japanese noncombatants in the course of the destruction of Japanese cities must be added to a list of the horrific legacies of the war that includes Nazi genocide and a host of Japanese war crimes against Asian peoples. Only by engaging the issues, and above all the impact of this approach to the massive killing of noncombatants that has been central to all subsequent US wars, can Americans begin to approach the Nuremberg ideal that holds victors as well as vanquished to the same standards with respect to crimes against humanity, or the standard of the 1949 Geneva Accord which requires the protection of civilians in time of war. This is the principle of universality enshrined at Nuremberg and violated in practice by the US and others beginning with the 1946 trials, which declared US immunity from prosecution for war crimes.
In his opening address to the tribunal, Chief Prosecutor for the United States, Justice Robert Jackson, Chief of Counsel for the United States, spoke eloquently, and memorably, on the principle of universality. “If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes,” he said, “they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us....We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well.” 
Every US president from Roosevelt to George W. Bush has endorsed in practice an approach to warfare that targets entire populations for annihilation, one that eliminates all vestiges of distinction between combatant and noncombatant, with deadly consequences. The awesome power of the atomic bomb has obscured the fact that this strategy came of age in the firebombing of Tokyo and became the centerpiece of US war making from that time forward.
That poisoned chalice was put to American lips in the 1945 trials and all the more so in subsequent wars. Sahr Conway-Lanz rightly points to the deep divisions among Americans seeking to strike an appropriate balance between combat and atrocity, and between war and genocide.  But with absolute American preponderance of technological power and the threat of enemies from Communists to terrorists magnified by government and the media, in practice, there were few restraints on the annihilation of noncombatants in the succession of US wars that have exacted such a heavy toll in lives. American self-conceptions of benevolence and justice have remained fixed not on the reality of the killing of noncombatants but on the combination of American intentions in combat and generosity in charting postwar recovery in all wars since 1945.
Epilogue: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and the Uses of Airpower to Target Noncombatants
The centrality of the wholesale killing of noncombatants through the myriad uses of air power runs like a red line from the bombings of 1944-45 through the Korean and Indochinese wars to the Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq wars. In the course of six decades since the firebombing and atomic bombing of Japan, while important continuities are observable, such as the firebombing and napalming of cities, new, more powerful and versatile aircraft and weapons would be deployed in the course of successive American wars fought predominantly in Asia.
General Curtis LeMay, the primary architect of the firebombing and atomic bombing strategy applied to Japan in 1945 played a comparable role in Korea and Vietnam. Never one to pull punches, or to minimize the claimed impact of bombing, LeMay recalled of Korea:
We slipped a note kind of under the door into the Pentagon and said, “Look, let us go up there…and burn down five of the biggest towns in North Korea – and they’re not very big – and that ought to stop it.” Well, the answer to that was four or five screams – “You’ll kill a lot of non-combatants,” and “It’s too horrible.” Yet over a period three years or so…we burned down every town in North Korea and South Korea, too… Now, over a period of three years this is palatable, but to kill a few people to stop this from happening – a lot of people can’t stomach it.” 
In the course of three years, US/UN forces in Korea flew 1,040,708 sorties and dropped 386,037 tons of bombs and 32,357 tons of napalm. Counting all types of air borne ordnance, including rockets and machine-gun ammunition, the total tonnage comes to 698,000 tons. Marilyn Young estimates the death toll in Korea, most of it noncombatants, at two to four million, and in the South alone, more than five million people had been displaced, according to UN estimates. 
One striking feature of these wars has been the extension of bombing from a predominantly urban phenomenon to the uses of airpower directed against rural areas of Korea and Vietnam, leading the United States to breach another of international principles that had sought to curtail indiscriminate attacks on noncombatants. Beginning in Korea, US bombing was extended from cities to the countryside with devastating effects. In what Bruce Cumings has called the “final act of this barbaric air war,” in spring 1953 North Korea’s main irrigation dams were destroyed shortly after the rice had been transplanted. 
Here we consider one particularly important element of American bombing of Vietnam. Franklin Roosevelt, in 1943 issued a statement that long stood as the clearest expression of US policy on the use of chemical and biological weapons. In response to reports of Axis plans to use poison gases, Roosevelt warned that “use of such weapons has been outlawed by the general opinion of civilized mankind. This country has not used them, and I hope that we never will be compelled to use them. I state categorically that we shall under no circumstances resort to the use of such weapons unless they are first used by our enemies.”  This principle, incorporated in US Army Field Manual 27-10, Law of Land Warfare, issued in 1954, affirmed the principle of no first use of gas warfare and bacteriological warfare. By 1956, that provision had disappeared, replaced by the assertion that the US was party to no treaty in force “that prohibits or restricts the use in warfare of toxic or nontoxic gases, or smoke or incendiary materials or of bacteriological warfare.” US CBW research and procurement efforts, that began in the early 1950s and culminated in the Kennedy administration in the early 1960s, resulted in the use of chemical and biological weapons both against Vietnamese forces and nature, specifically extending from the destruction of forest cover to the destruction of crops. As Seymour Hersh documents, the US CBW program in Vietnam “gradually escalated from the use of leaf-killing defoliants to rice-killing herbicides and nausea-producing gases.”  How widespread were US gas attacks in Vietnam? A 1967 Japanese study of US anticrop and defoliation attacks prepared by the head of the Agronomy Section of the Japan Science Council concluded that more than 3.8 million acres of arable land in South Vietnam was ruined and more than 1,000 peasants and 13,000 livestock were killed.  In the face of US military claims that the gases were benign, Dr. Pham Duc Nam told Japanese investigators that a three-day attack near Da Nang from February 25 to 27, 1966 had poisoned both livestock and people, some of whom died. “Pregnant women gave birth to still-born or premature children. Most of the affected cattle died from serious diarrhea, and river fish floated on the surface of the water belly up, soon after the chemicals were spread.” 
Before turning to Iraq, it is worth recalling President Nixon’s comments on the bombing of Cambodia as preserved in the Kissinger tapes released in May 2004. In a burst of anger on Dec. 9, 1970, when Nixon railed over what he saw as the Air Force’s lackluster bombing campaign in Cambodia. Kissinger responded: “The Air Force is designed to fight an air battle against the Soviet Union. They are not designed for this war.” Nixon then exploded: “I want them to hit everything. I want them to use the big planes, the small planes, everything they can that will help out there, and let’s start giving them a little shock.” Here was an early warning signal of the “Shock and Awe” strategy of a generation later. Kissinger relayed the order: “A massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. Anything that flies on anything that moves.”  In the course of the Vietnam War the US embraced chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction as integral parts of its arsenal.
Another story of indiscriminate bombing in Cambodia came to light thirty six years after the events. The new evidence makes clear that Cambodia was bombed far more heavily than was previously known, and that, unbeknownst to the American public or the world, it began not with Nixon in 1970 but on October 4, 1965. During a fall 2000 visit to Vietnam, President Clinton made available detailed Air Force records to help the Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian governments to uncover the remains of two thousand missing American soldiers. The records provided specific data on place and scale of bombing. The incomplete data reveal that October 4, 1965, to August 15, 1973, the United States dropped far more ordnance on Cambodia than was previously believed: 2,756,941 tons’ worth, dropped in 230,516 sorties on 113,716 sites. The consequences go far beyond the dead, the injured, and the continued dangers of unexploded ordinance. As Taylor Owen and Ben Kiernan argue persuasively, “Civilian casualties in Cambodia drove an enraged populace into the arms of an insurgency that had enjoyed relatively little support until the bombing began, setting in motion the expansion of the Vietnam War deeper into Cambodia, a coup d’état in 1970, the rapid rise of the Khmer Rouge, and ultimately the Cambodian genocide.” 
It is notable, by contrast to the preceding six decades of American warfare, that the centrality of the image of airpower and the bomb as the summa of destructive might, has shifted dramatically in the Iraq War: Americans remember World War II above all as the crowning achievement of air power, symbolized and mythologized by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; they remember the era of US-Soviet confrontation above all as one of nuclear standoff; and they remember both Korea and Vietnam in no small part through images of American predominance in the air, as in the bombing of Hanoi and North Vietnam as well as the defoliation using Agent Orange, air power. But, as Michael Sherry observes, air power has largely receded from consciousness in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the shift in target from the other superpower to faceless terrorists associated with Al-Quaida and Islamic militants. Sherry concludes that a sea change has occurred, a shift from prophecy to memory in which air power declines in American consciousness: “Bombers attacking Baghdad, B-52s over Belgrade, Russian planes hitting Grozny, rulers bombing their own peoples--the scale of those operations (however devastating for the locals) and the fact that they involved such unequal forces did not stir Americans’ apocalyptic fears and fantasies.” Where air power did appear in American consciousness, he finds, “American bombing came across on U.S. television screens more as a fascinating video game than as a devastating onslaught.” More importantly, he concludes, because of the attack on New York’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon on 9/11, and because of the horrific images that it conjured, in contrast to the heroic images of air power in World War II, the prophecy associated with it “did not seem to last long or run deep.” 
In thinking about the Iraq War and contemporary American consciousness, I would like to suggest an alternative scenario. First, I believe that 9/11 and the Twin Towers in flames remains the iconic image of our times in American consciousness. It is the central mobilizing image for US war making and the primal impulse that drives American fears of the future. Second, as Seymour Hersh and others have observed, the US military, while continuing to pursue massive bombing of Iraqi neighborhoods, above all in the destruction of Falluja but even in Baghdad, has chosen to throw a cloak of silence over the air war. The major media have faithfully honored official dicta in this as in so many other ways.  Finally, among the George W. Bush administration’s major initiatives have been the efforts to seize control of space as the centerpiece of global domination in an era that is slated to replace the bomber as the primary delivery weapon of mass destruction.  Air power remains among the major causes of death, destruction, dislocation and division in contemporary Iraq in a war that had taken approximately 655,000 lives by the summer of 2006 in the most authoritative study to date, that of The Lancet) and created more than two million refugees abroad and an equal number displaced internally (one in seven Iraqis are displaced). Largely unreported in the US mainstream press, and invisible in US television news and reportage, this is the central reality that confronts the Iraq people. US strategy has produced the explosive social divisions that promise to lead to permanent warfare in Iraq and throughout the region. Despite the unchallenged air supremacy that the US has wielded in Iraq since 1991 and especially since 2003, there is no end in sight to US warfare and civil war in Iraq and throughout the region. 
We have shown the decisive impact of the final year of World War II in setting in place the preeminence of strategic bombing as quintessential to the US way of war, one that would characterize subsequent major wars that have wreaked yet greater devastation on noncombatant populations. Yet for all the power unleashed by US bombers, for all the millions of victims, in the six decades since 1945, victory against successive, predominantly Asian foes, has proved extraordinary elusive for the United States.
Posted on: Sunday, May 13, 2007 - 18:35
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (5-13-07)
... [Venice] is the ideal place to ponder the vast economic changes we are witnessing in our time. For what befell Venice roughly 500 years ago may well be the imminent fate of the city's North American counterpart: New York.
Just as the world economy tilted away from Venice in around the year 1500, condemning it to relative decline, slow stagnation and ultimate relegation from metropolis to museum, so it could now be tilting away from what was once the greatest entrepôt of the Atlantic world.
It's not just the American investment bankers fretting that London is doing more deals than New York. Much more financial restructuring is needed in Europe's still fragmented economy than in the United States, so London's lead is hardly surprising, regardless of regulatory differences. Far more impressive is the coming shift identified by Princeton's Alan Blinder in a recent working paper entitled How Many US Jobs Might Be Offshorable?
Looking closely at which activities are most vulnerable as Asian competition ascends the value chain from manufacturing into services, Blinder estimates that "somewhere between 22 per cent and 29 per cent of all US jobs are or will be potentially offshorable within a decade or two". That could be one in four jobs.
Right now, much more attention gets paid in the US media to illegal immigrants, most of whom come from Mexico. But they compete only with the least skilled Americans: fruit-pickers and hotel maids. The new generation of high-skilled but still low-paid Asian graduates can stay at home and still compete, not only with computer programmers and telemarketers, but also with accountants and financial analysts. Even with corporate lawyers and derivatives traders. In short, with New Yorkers.
For more than a century, Manhattan has been the financial hub of the Atlantic economy, the place where North American financial services attained critical mass. If Blinder is right, that could change - and soon. The more business opportunities arise to the east of New York, the less advantageous its location becomes. And the more New Yorkers' skills are replicated elsewhere, the less need there is to employ New Yorkers.
Now think what happened to Venice. In 1500, the city was at the very zenith of its economic power. It was the hub of the European economy, the place where Christendom, the Levant and the Orient met. The wealth it derived from trade and finance was what made possible the monuments we admire today, just as it made possible the armies and navies with which the Venetians vanquished their rivals.
Then came Columbus. The discoveries and conquests in the New World after 1492 began a profound reorientation of the world from East to West. As silver and sugar flowed one way across the Atlantic, migrants and slaves the other, new business opportunities arose that favoured Amsterdam and London. In effect, the merchants of Venice found their jobs "offshored"....
Posted on: Sunday, May 13, 2007 - 17:33
SOURCE: Informed Comment (Blog) (5-10-07)
But first of all the remark came in the context of Sharpton's debate with Christopher Hitchens concerning belief in God, and Sharpton maintains that he was just saying that it wasn't the Hitchens types who would defeat Romney, but the believers. So it isn't clear that Sharpton intended to say that Mormons don't really believe in God.
But Romney is maybe not the most credible person when it comes to decrying religious bigotry. He is himself guilty of conflating Muslim movements in a way that does injustice to them. Last week during the debate, he said:
'"We'll move everything to get him [Bin Laden]. But I don't want to buy into the Democratic pitch, that this is all about one person, Osama bin Laden. Because after we get him, there's going to be another and another. This is about Shi'a and Sunni. This is about Hezbollah and Hamas and al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. This is the worldwide jihadist effort to try and cause the collapse of all moderate Islamic governments and replace them with a caliphate. They also probably want to bring down the United States of America. This is a global effort we're going to have to lead to overcome this jihadist effort. It's more than Osama bin Laden. But he is going to pay, and he will die." '
What does he mean,"this is about Sunni and Shia?" Is he saying that all Muslims of both major branches are his targets, and that he associates them with al-Qaeda?
The inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood in this list of jihadi groups willing to use violence does a grave injustice to the many members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood who eschewed violence to participate in civil politics. The Muslim Brotherhood has 88 seats in the Egyptian parliament, and Egypt is a non-NATO ally of the United States. Did Romney just declare war on them? Isn't this lumping together of disparate Muslim parties a form of Islamophobia, i.e. religious bigotry?
By the way, Tariq al-Hashimi, the Vice President of Iraq who met with US VP Dick Cheney on Wednesday, is a leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party, which is the Iraqi Muslim Brotherhood, founded at Mosul in 1938. Paul Bremer appointed an IIP leader to his Interim Governing Council, so the party has for long been a cornerstone of what policy toward the Iraqi religious Sunnis the Bush administration has had. Is Mitt Romney at war with al-Hashimi?
(For more about the Muslim Brotherhood, see this article from Foreign Affairs.)
As for the Lebanese Hizbullah, as a Shiite group it just isn't like the others Romney named, and it is a deadly enemy of al-Qaeda. It has seats in the Lebanese parliament and until recently had a couple cabinet ministries in the government, and is among the most reliably nationalist of the Lebanese political parties. Although it has tangled repeatedly with its neighbor, Israel (which has invaded Lebanon three times since 1978 and occupied Lebanese territory for nearly two decades), it hasn't been involved in international terrorism for a good decade. As Shiites, the members of Hizbullah do not believe in a caliphate, unlike some sectarian Sunnis. Hizbullah leader Hasan Nasrallah 'has condemned al-Qaeda for terrorist actions that target “innocents,” and he has disassociated himself from the extreme Islamic fundamentalism of the Taliban.'
Hamas likewise has local aspirations and is not part of a world-wide jihadist conspiracy to create a caliphate and destroy the United States. Its leaders have repeatedly said that they do not and will not attack US targets. If anyone has faced high-level political conspiracies and is being destroyed, it is the Palestinian people.
Will Romney apologize for"it is about Sunni and Shia," or for his grouping of the Muslim Brotherhood with al-Qaeda, or for his allegation that Shiite Hizbullah wants a caliphate?
How are these gross and inaccurate generalizations about Muslims groups different from those of Sharpton about Mormons?
Is Romney, who is so concerned about religious bigotry, willing to condemn the phrase"Islamofascism," which libels Islam by linking it to a set of European authoritarian parties?
Will he stand against groups that attempt to deny American Muslims their first amendment right to worship?
(Romney's statement was discussed extensively in the blogosphere last week, by Spencer Ackerman, by Kevin Drum, by Daniel Larison, by The Plank, and at Reasons and Opinions-- no doubt elsewhere as well, but this is what came up at the top of a google search.)
Posted on: Thursday, May 10, 2007 - 13:09
SOURCE: National Review Online (5-10-07)
... Since the 1970s, France has been a target for terrorist activities. Left-wing, right-wing, and Middle Eastern-rooted groups attacked the country and were fought fiercely by the government. As of the early 1990s, French urban centers began to witness the rise of radical Islamist networks. Migrating from the Maghreb (northwest Africa) and other regions, Salafi clerics and militants promoted jihadism around Paris and many other cities. By the end of the decade, many suburban zones were practically ruled by powers parallel to the state.
Inaugurated by Charles de Gaulle in the 1960s, the “politique Arabe de la France” (Arab policy of France), meant in practice an accommodation by Paris to the wishes of foreign powers providing cheap natural resources to the country’s industrial complex. Very smartly, the domestic jihadi web positioned itself under the umbrella of the French Oil interest and multinational corporations; radical clerics were financed by Saudi and other Arab regimes, spreading Wahhabism and Salafism across the country. Any interference by French authorities would “hurt” the relations with Petrol-regimes and thus would have a negative effect on the “economic benefits” to the country. Moreover, high-profile politicians, including President Chirac, were accused of becoming personal friends with Middle Eastern financial empires.
The silent majority in France was powerless against the rise of the extremists in the banlieues (suburbs) and throughout the provinces. The average French voter grew frustrated with these two political options and was not willing to support Le Pen’s extreme positions. Popular dismay was exacerbated as the “parallel society” of radicals expanded in urban France. Within those enclaves, the Salafis were profiting from the void. Wherever French police and social workers couldn’t go, jihadi cells would mushroom. The combination of areas ruled by Imams and migrant terror-networks was explosive: In the fall of 2005, it did explode, right in the face of French citizenry.
THE FAILURE OF APPEASEMENT
After the September 11 attacks in the U.S., most Europeans worried that the same could happen to them. The European elite, however, largely dismissed the possibility, arguing that America brought the attacks upon itself by means of its foreign policy. Soon enough, Western Europe felt the ire of al Qaeda and its ilk: the Madrid train attacks on March 11, 2004, the London subway killings on July 7, 2005, and the assassination of Van Gogh on November 2, 2004, in Amsterdam were the most visible of the continental ghazwas (Jihadi raids).
In France, President Jacques Chirac, taking the Gaullist doctrine to its extreme, thought he could spare his country from the “holy wars.” By opposing the removal of Saddam and leading the criticism of Washington, the French political establishment, led by the Élysée (the presidential palace) and endorsed by Rue Solferino (the headquarters of the Socialist party), pitted itself against the United States. Between 2003 and late 2004, French diplomacy fought a fierce battle against America’s involvement in Iraq. The more Paris aligned itself with Berlin’s Schroeder and with anti-American governments worldwide, the more Chirac’s politicians felt safe at home and overseas. But the Jihadi powers, Salafists, and Khomeinists had different calculations. Their message to the French was: Either you are with us or you are against us.
During the Iraq war and in its aftermath, Salafi combat-cells continued to spread in France. Not supporting the U.S. in Iraq didn’t shield France from this domestic threat. Al Qaeda doesn’t reward infidels for not joining other infidels in the fight. Nor did Iran and Syria protect the French president’s interests and friends in the region, despite his political war with the Bush administration. In 2004, the Syrian regime went after Chirac’s allies and partners in Lebanon, most notably after Chirac’s friend Rafiq Hariri. In September, Paris reacted by introducing, along with the U.S., a resolution to get Syria out of Lebanon. In retaliation, the Assad regime launched an assassination campaign, killing many politicians, including Hariri. France’s “Arab policy” was collapsing. By the fall of 2005, France’s national soil was transformed into a battlefield.
UNREST IN FRANCE
On October 27, in Clichy-sous-Bois, an eastern suburb of Paris, “youth gangs” began torching cars and destroying property. The vandalism was purportedly instigated by the death of two young men who were being chased by police. But there was clearly more to it: The uprising spread to dozens of cities and similar graffiti appeared simultaneously across the country. By November 8, 2005, a state of emergency was declared. Ten thousand cars had been burned.
The French public took this as a warning. The media, government, and academia insisted on the unemployment-youth-socio-economic paradigm. But the silent majority didn’t buy it. People living close to the “insurgents” and interacting with them, including the security agencies, understood what was happening: Large urban zones around France’s cities had slipped away from national sovereignty. The radicals had built a “société parallèle,” concluded the average citizens. If the police couldn’t go into the suburbs, it was because they had become Taliban-like pockets. A national leader had to step in.
Moving swiftly and energetically, Nicolas Sarkozy, the minister of interior, took charge in what was the most sensitive aspect of the French collective psychology. After having organized the Islamic Federation of France in an attempt to whisk it away from the radicals the year before, Sarkozy became the target of attacks by the Salafi clerics, many of whom were preaching Jihadism in the mosques. Sarkozy used French laws to deport a number of them who were non-citizens. In 2003, Sarkozy had organized a state backed Council for Islamic Faith to contain the rise of the Islamists. The November 2005 intifada was a response to the Sarkozy counter-Jihadi measures. In response the minister of interior pushed for the deportation of the radical clerics he accused of incitements....
Posted on: Thursday, May 10, 2007 - 12:52
SOURCE: Guardian (5-10-07)
Soon after dawn on May 11 1857, 150 years ago this week, the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was saying his morning prayers in his oratory overlooking the river Jumna when he saw a cloud of dust rising on the far side of the river. Minutes later, he was able to see its cause: 300 East India Company cavalrymen charging wildly towards his palace.
The troops had ridden overnight from Meerut, where they had turned their guns on their British officers, and had come to Delhi to ask the emperor to give his blessing to their mutiny. As a letter sent out by the rebels' leaders subsequently put it: "The English are people who overthrow all religions ... As the English are the common enemy of both [Hindus and Muslims, we] should unite in their slaughter ... By this alone will the lives and faiths of both be saved."
The sepoys entered Delhi, massacred every Christian man, woman and child they could find and declared the 82-year-old emperor to be their leader. Before long the insurgency had snowballed into the largest and bloodiest anticolonial revolt against any European empire in the 19th century. Of the 139,000 sepoys of the Bengal army, all but 7,796 turned against the British. In many places the sepoys were supported by a widespread civilian rebellion.
There is much about British imperial adventures in the east at this time, and the massive insurgency it provoked, which is uneasily familiar to us today. The British had been trading in India since the early 17th century. But the commercial relationship changed towards the end of the 18th, as a new group of conservatives came to power in London, determined to make Britain the sole global power. Lord Wellesley, the brother of the Duke of Wellington and governor general in India from 1798 to 1805, called his new approach the Forward Policy. But it was in effect a project for a new British century. Wellesley made it clear he would not tolerate any European rivals, especially the French, and planned to remove any hostile Muslim regimes that might presume to resist the west's growing might.
The Forward Policy soon developed an evangelical flavour. The new conservatives wished to impose not only British laws but also western values on India. The country would be not only ruled but redeemed. Local laws which offended Christian sensibilities were abrogated - the burning of widows, for instance, was banned. One of the East India Company directors, Charles Grant, spoke for many when he wrote of how he believed providence had brought the British to India for a higher purpose: "Is it not necessary to conclude that our Asiatic territories were given to us, not merely that we draw a profit from them, but that we might diffuse among their inhabitants, long sunk in darkness, the light of Truth?"...
Contrary to evidence that the uprising broke out first among the overwhelmingly Hindu sepoys, the prosecutor argued that "to Musalman intrigues and Mahommedan conspiracy we may mainly attribute the dreadful calamities of 1857". Like some of the ideas propelling recent adventures in the east, this was a ridiculous and bigoted oversimplification of a more complex reality. For, as today, western politicians found it easier to blame "Muslim fanaticism" for the bloodshed they had unleashed than to examine the effects of their own foreign policies. Western politicians were apt to cast their opponents in the role of "incarnate fiends", conflating armed resistance to invasion and occupation with "pure evil".
Yet the lessons of 1857 are very clear. No one likes people of a different faith conquering them, or force-feeding them improving ideas at the point of a bayonet. The British in 1857 discovered what the US and Israel are learning now, that nothing so easily radicalises a people against them, or so undermines the moderate aspect of Islam, as aggressive western intrusion in the east. ...
Posted on: Wednesday, May 9, 2007 - 21:37
SOURCE: Special to HNN (5-9-07)
Almost a year and a half has passed since our friend Samir Dari was gunned down by an Israeli policeman. Samir, an Israeli resident and father of two, approached a group of policemen who had just detained his brother on a street corner not far away from his house and demanded the latter’s release. There are conflicting versions about how the events unfolded, but there is no dispute about the following facts: Samir was unarmed and the policeman Shmuel Yechezkel shot him from close range in the back.
The Israeli police were quick to disseminate a fallacious version of the incident which portrayed the killing as an act of self-defense. This is a typical and almost automatic police response, one which inverts the order between victim and aggressor. When an Arab is killed, he is said to have been violent; when he is beaten up, he is said to have struck the policeman first; when he is oppressed, he is the one who is guilty.
Also typical was the lack of public interest in Samir’s death. The killing of an Arab is, after all, not the kind of event that makes headlines in Israel.
The non-violent protest which Samir’s friends organized in response to the killing did, however, attract attention. Israeli Jews cannot easily digest angry Arabs in the streets, and many did not hesitate to openly threaten the protesters: “An immediate and forceful response is necessary”; “A missile attack on their village is needed,” were some of the responses that appeared in the local newspaper.
But now, a year and a half later, it turns out that the Israeli legal system shares the public’s perception, although the way it expresses itself is less strident.
Judge Noam Solburg recently acquitted the policeman Yechezkel. Ironically, in his verdict the judge states that Samir had not threatened Yechezkel, at no point was there physical contact between Samir and the policemen on the scene, and Samir was actually moving away from the policemen when he was shot in the back. “The accused made an awful and terrible mistake,” the judge concludes, adding that “The deceased was killed for no reason.”
The judge, nonetheless, exonerated Yechezkel because, in his opinion, it is not beyond probable doubt that the policeman felt he was acting in self-defense. Thus, when the “mistake” is killing an Arab, no one pays the price -- except, of course, the victim, his wife and children.
Judge Solburg’s verdict sends a message to Samir’s family and all Arab citizens of Israel: they should not expect justice and protection from the Israeli state. While the law’s role is to protect citizens and the police’s responsibility is to uphold the law, often these basic truths are ignored when it comes to Arabs. Since September 2000, thirty-four Arab citizens have been killed at the hands of the police, security guards and soldiers. Nonetheless, only four indictments have been issued, and only after a vigorous public campaign. Not one of these cases has resulted in a conviction.
And yet, at times, naiveté stubbornly tries to challenge political reality. When Samir was killed, we thought it was worth demanding justice. Initially, Samir’s family refused to allow an autopsy. Only after considerable pressure from friends and lawyers, who argued that without concrete evidence the policeman would walk free, did the family agree, against their religious convictions, to permit the forensic procedure. The doctor’s report was unequivocal: Samir had been shot in the back from short range.
Apparently, Judge Solburg has no patience for naiveté and ensured that political reality would win the day. He did not allow the autopsy results or, in his own words, “the objective dimension” of the case to alter his verdict and thus sent a very clear message to Arab citizens of Israel that evidence is not the most important criteria for determining guilt. It will, accordingly, be no surprise if the next victim’s family refuses to consent to an autopsy.
The verdict also sends a clear message to the police: “don’t worry.” Israeli policemen can rest assured that everything will be done to cover up violence against Arabs. If internal affairs won’t do the job, then a judge, who will acquit the policeman, can be found, even when the officer is guilty of shooting a man in cold blood.
Moreover, the verdict reinforces the idea among the Jewish public that not all blood is the same. Not that this should really surprise anyone. A year and a half ago, when Samir was killed, we wrote an article for the Israeli press that ended with the following lines:
“Samir is gone. We would like to hope that someone will be courageous enough to hold the person who shot him in the back accountable. We would like to believe that this incident will begin revealing the web of lies and racism that serves to perpetuate the circle of violence. We would like to know that Samir’s children will be the last ones orphaned by the violence of the secret services, police and military. But no. We won’t delude ourselves.”
To our great sorrow, our pessimism has not been misplaced.
Posted on: Wednesday, May 9, 2007 - 17:57
SOURCE: New York Daily News (5-9-07)
Hey, stop teaching the language of the enemy! Don’t you know there’s a war going on?
That’s what self-described American patriots said about German during World War One, when instruction in the language all but disappeared from our public schools. And that’s what they’re saying today, about a proposed Arabic academy in New York.
Three months ago, the city Department of Education announced plans for its first public school dedicated to the study of Arabic language and culture. Named after Khalil Gibran, a Lebanese-born poet and philosopher, the new academy was slated to share space with P.S. 282, an elementary school in Brooklyn.
But last Friday, Department of Education officials declared that they would seek a different site for the school. They cited complaints from P.S. 282 parents, who feared that the Gibran Academy would overcrowd the building.
No matter where the academy is located, however, it will also face attacks from Americans who simply don’t think we should have a public school dedicated to Arabic instruction. The city already sponsors other dual-language schools, of course: on the Lower East Side, for example, the Shuang Wen Academy teaches classes in both English and Mandarin.
But Arabic is different, these critics say, because there’s a war on. And the enemy uses its language to recruit new players for its team—and to put us all in peril.
Listen to Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum: “Arabic language instruction is inevitably laden with pan-Arabist and Islamist baggage.” Calling the Gibran Academy a “madrassa” instead of a school, Pipes goes on to quote several teachers—in the United States and abroad—who insist that Arabic study promotes “Islamicist” and “extremist” views.
Trouble is, that’s precisely what critics of German-language instruction said after the United States entered World War I in 1917. And their efforts led to one of the most hysterical, unjust campaigns in the history of American schools.
According to the California State Board of Education, for example, German was “a language that disseminates the ideals of autocracy, brutality, and hatred.” Even worse, other educators said, German classes would harm the war effort. “What this nation needs is a hundred million hard hearts toward Germany,” one Ohio superintendent wrote. “German instruction in the schools tends to soften them.”
By September 1918, fourteen states had passed measures barring or limiting German instruction. Hundreds of local districts did the same, fueled by vigilante mobs. In Lewiston, Montana, a crowd stormed the local high school, seized German books, and burned them; in Yankton, South Dakota, students sang “The Star Spangled Banner” as they dumped their own German books into the Missouri River; and in Chicago, pupils ripped out pages from their texts that allegedly praised the German Kaiser.
Did some German-Americans—and some German-language teachers—oppose American involvement in World War One, or even favor their ancestral homeland in the conflict? Of course they did. Most notably, journalist George Sylvester Viereck spread pro-German propaganda through a wide range of publications. Two decades later, Viereck would be jailed for serving as a Nazi agent.
That’s why we should scrutinize any new Arabic program, making sure it’s teaching in an impartial and evenhanded fashion. There IS a war going on, and there ARE people—inside of our country, not just outside of it—who want to kill as many Americans as possible. And we should take every measure to see that no such individuals gain a voice in our public school curriculum.
But there’s no reason to think that the Gibran Academy would act as a kind of fifth column, turning patriotic Americans into acolytes of Al Qaeda.
Critics of the school have noted that its principal-designate, Debbie Almontaser, once said that American foreign policy in the Middle East helped trigger the September 11, 2001 attacks. She also said she did not regard the 9/11 attackers “as either Arabs or Muslims.”
So what? The question is not whether you agree with everything Almontaser has said; I certainly don’t. The issue is whether she would use the Gibran Academy to propagandize for her views. And if you think Almontaser is more likely to do that than any other educator, well, then, you’re simply prejudiced against Muslim and Arabic-speaking people.
And you’re also echoing the hateful crusade against German, which was chillingly successful. In 1915, almost 25 percent of American high school students took German; by 1922, less than one percent did. That was a huge loss for American education, and an even greater one for American democracy. Shame on the critics of Arab instruction, for making the same mistake twice.
Posted on: Wednesday, May 9, 2007 - 14:44
SOURCE: Newsweek (5-14-07)
In tranquil times we have survived presidents like Warren G. Harding, whose supreme ambition was to stay popular. But these times aren't tranquil. Our soldiers are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. We face the specter of a nuclear North Korea and Iran and worldwide terrorists. During the next president's term, there may be one blinding moment when we desperately need a president to make the same kind of self-sacrificing decision that courageous predecessors did.
America would be a very different place without presidential courage. If Andrew Jackson had not halted the increasingly powerful, corrupt Bank of the United States and its vengeful chief, Nicholas Biddle, in 1832, we might be governed today not from Washington but by an omnipotent, unelected Philadelphia banker.
In August 1864, Abraham Lincoln's campaign managers told him he had no chance to win a second term that November. Many Northern voters were willing to keep fighting the Civil War to bring the South back into the Union—but not to free the slaves. Lincoln was grimly advised to renounce his 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Though briefly tempted to weasel away from the proclamation, Lincoln looked into his soul and decided, in the words of his old Kentucky hero Henry Clay, that "I'd rather be right than be president." As it happened, with an assist from Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's well-timed conquest of Atlanta in September, Lincoln won his second term. He got to be both right—and president. But he could not escape assassination by someone who hated him for liberating the slaves....
Posted on: Wednesday, May 9, 2007 - 00:41
SOURCE: NYT (5-7-07)
On Feb. 8, 2004, George W. Bush proudly proclaimed to Tim Russert on “Meet the Press,” “I am a war president.” Like an 8-year-old playing with toy soldiers, Bush, an Air National Guard dropout, looked at war with vicarious enthusiasm. Contrast the attitude of the nation’s “peace presidents” – supreme commanders who led the nation to victory in the greatest wars the country faced: men who had experienced the grim reality of battle and wanted no part of it.
Ulysses S. Grant condemned war as “the most destructive and unsavory activity of mankind.” Surveying the carnage at Fort Donelson during the Civil War, he told an aide, “this work is part of the devil that is left in us.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower, another former general, was equally outspoken: “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, as only one who has seen its brutality, its futility and stupidity…. War settles nothing.”
Both Grant and Eisenhower were elected with expectations that they would put a victorious end to conflicts in which the country was then engaged. Both presidents did end the fighting. But not in ways that their bellicose supporters anticipated.
In Grant’s case, the frontier was ablaze, and it was widely assumed that the general-in-chief who had bested Robert E. Lee would make quick work of the Plains Indians who were slowing the nation’s westward expansion. That bet was misplaced. Grant admired the integrity and lifestyle of Native Americans and ordered an end to the slaughter. He reined in Generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Sheridan (who seemed bent on annihilation), dispatched a brace of “humanitarian generals” to the West, provided aid and comfort to entice the tribes onto reservations, and replaced corrupt Indian agents with Quakers. “Grant’s peace policy” – as it is called by historians – brought peace to Great Plains without racial genocide....
Like Grant, Eisenhower believed the United States should never go to war unless national survival was at stake. He resisted calls for preventive war against China and Russia, reached out to the Soviet Union after Stalin’s death and slashed the Defense Department budget. He declined to take military action to defend the Chinese offshore islands of Quemoy and Matsu, stepped aside when Hungary exploded in 1956 and refused to deploy American forces in situations that might lead to combat without Congressional authorization....
George Bush and the neocons have no monopoly on glorifying military adventure. Madeleine Albright, President Clinton’s secretary of state, caused General Colin Powell a case of near cardiac arrest when she asked at a meeting of the National Security Council, “Why do we have an Army if we are not willing to use it?”
War is not an instrument of policy. It is an act of desperation.
Posted on: Tuesday, May 8, 2007 - 17:54
SOURCE: New York Sun (5-8-07)
"Moderate Unicorns," huffed a reader, responding to my recent plea that Western states bolster moderate Muslims. Dismissing their existence as a myth, he notes that non-Muslims"are still waiting for moderates to stand and deliver, identifying and removing extremist thugs from their mosques and their communities."
It's a valid skepticism and a reasonable demand. Recent events in Pakistan and Turkey, however, prove that moderate Muslims are no myth.
In Pakistan, an estimated 100,000 people demonstrated on April 15 in Karachi, the country's largest city, to protest the plans of a powerful mosque in Islamabad, the Lal Masjid, to establish a parallel court system based on Islamic law, the Shari‘a."No to extremism," roared the crowd."We will strongly resist religious terrorism and religious extremism," exhorted Altaf Hussain, leader of the Mutahida Qaumi Movement, at the rally.
In Turkey, more than a million moderate Muslims in five marches protested the bid of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) to take over the presidency of the republic, giving it control over the two top government offices (the other being the prime ministry, currently filled by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan).
The Ankara march of April 14, 2007.
A young woman carrying a huge Turkish flag, Muge Kaplan, explained that the crowd is Muslim and believes in Islam, but it doesn't want Islam"to become our whole way of life." A farmer, Bülent Korucu, asserted that the crowd is defending its republic"against religious fundamentalists."
Nor are the masses alone in resisting AKP's Islamists. President Ahmet Necdet Sezer warned that, for the first time since 1923, when the secular republic came into being, its pillars"are being openly questioned." He also inveighed against the imposition of a soft Islamist state, predicting that it would turn extremist. Onur Öymen, deputy chairman of the opposition Republican People's Party, cautioned that the AKP's taking the presidency would"upset all balances" and create a very dangerous situation.
The military – Turkey's ultimate powerbroker – issued two statements reinforcing this assessment. On April 12, the chief of staff, Gen. Mehmet Yaşar Büyükanıt, expressed his hope that"someone who is loyal to the principles of the republic—not just in words but in essence—is elected president." Two weeks later, the military's tone became more urgent, announcing that the presidential election"has been anxiously followed by the Turkish Armed Forces [which] maintains its firm determination to carry out its clearly specified duties to protect" secular principles.
This resolute stand against Islamism by moderate Turkish Muslims is the more striking when contrasted with the cluelessness of Westerners who pooh-pooh the dangers of the AKP's ascent. A Wall Street Journal editorial assures Turks that their prime minister's popularity"is built on competent and stable government." Dismissing the historic crossroads that President Sezer and others perceive, it dismisses as"fear mongering" doubts about Prime Minister Erdoğan's commitment to secularism and ascribes these to petty campaign tactics"to get out the anti-AKP vote and revive a flagging opposition."
"Even if Erdoğan walked on water, the secularists wouldn't believe him," observes a former American ambassador to Turkey, Morton Abramowitz. Olli Rehn, the European Union's"enlargement commissioner," instructed the Turkish military to leave the presidency election in the hands of the democratically-elected government, calling the issue"a test case" for the armed forces to respect its political masters, a position the U.S. government subsequently endorsed.
Is it not telling that great numbers of moderate Muslims see danger where so many non-Muslims are blind? Do developments in Pakistan and Turkey not confirm my oft-repeated point that radical Islam is the problem and moderate Islam the solution? And do they not suggest that ignorant non-Muslim busybodies should get out of the way of those moderate Muslims determined to relegate Islamism to its rightful place in the dustbin of history?
This article is reprinted with permission by Daniel Pipes. This article first appeared in the New York Sun.
Posted on: Tuesday, May 8, 2007 - 13:23
SOURCE: Baltimore Sun (4-5-07)
Last week's raid on a Baltimore employment agency and the conviction of a local restaurateur remind us that undocumented workers cook our meals, stitch our T-shirts and perform invisible but indispensable labor throughout the city. The recent crackdown is noteworthy for targeting the employers, but immigrant laborers ultimately bear the highest costs when the law is enforced. In this regard, the long history of "illegal" labor in Baltimore offers a different context to consider the 69 workers arrested last week.
Runaway slaves and indentured servants constituted the city's first "illegal" work force. When an enslaved carpenter named Lancaster fled from Virginia to Baltimore in 1790, his owner expected to find him "employed on board vessels in the harbour as a carpenter, passing as a freeman." It was common knowledge that a worker without papers could get hired along the waterfront to join a ship's crew or to unload a vessel for $1 a day.
Irish indentured servant James Lynch came to Baltimore in 1793 hoping to earn wages for his work. His master, like almost all masters seeking to recapture runways, warned ship captains and merchants not to "entertain or carry off" the fugitive.
Baltimore employers paid little heed, which is why runaways continued to come to the city in search of better work. In the 1830s, Irwin Gibbs found jobs as a waiter, drayman and "packer of China" while eluding his Baltimore County owner. He had a free wife in the city and sought a semblance of family stability while working under the radar. Female slaves also ran away to Baltimore, and found jobs as domestic servants. Over years, these "illegal" workers built remarkable communities - but ones that could unravel whenever a constable asked to see freedom papers or an employer became dissatisfied. An 1832 Maryland law defined many free African-Americans as "illegal" workers as well. That law intended to discourage black immigrants from places like Virginia and North Carolina. Legislators from rural Maryland worried that these migrants would corrupt the state's slaves. The law proposed a $20 daily fine on any employer hiring new arrivals to Baltimore's thriving free black community.
The city's employers remained eager to hire free black workers - or black workers passing as free. African-American men regularly lined up at several sites around the city waiting for hire, a practice that sounds remarkably familiar to anyone who has seen day laborers congregating in the parking lot of a home improvement store. In theory, workers who could be "busted" at any moment were less likely to complain about bad conditions. And for these workers, earning bad wages in Baltimore was a marked improvement over slavery on a tobacco plantation.
Then, as now, the law saved the most severe penalties for "illegal" workers themselves. The 1832 law levied an astronomical $50 weekly fine on free black migrants to Maryland. Anyone unable to pay could be auctioned into temporary slavery to cover the costs....
Posted on: Monday, May 7, 2007 - 21:39
SOURCE: Times (of London) (5-6-07)
There has been nothing like this since Sinn Fein took a majority of Irish seats in the general election of 1918. Effective independence for the 26 counties followed within a few years, despite all the British did to stop it. Do Gordon Brown or David Cameron have any better ideas for saving the UK than Lloyd George or Churchill?
Of course the situation today is different. Scotland has no long history of oppression and misery, no desire for violence or armed resistance to Westminster’s authority. While the development of Scottish nationalism has been more subterranean and subtle than that of Irish nationalism, it now looks just as difficult to deal with, let alone defeat.
In fact Scottish nationalism has not had to revive because it never really died. This week marked the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Union between England and Scotland in 1707. Treaty is the right word (rather than Act of Union) because it struck a bargain between two sovereign nations, even if one was big and strong, the other small and weak.
The bargain was that the Scots should be left to their own devices in what they most valued about themselves (church, law and education) while being free to play their part in the union and the empire. So a Scottish society in many ways separate survived, even while it gave a wider loyalty to Britain.
The empire has gone now, so the union no longer has the value it once had. Then, in the late 20th century, the British state seized more power for itself, controlling personal lives and local communities to an extent that would have appalled earlier generations. ...
Margaret Thatcher refused to make any concessions to Scotland, which helped Labour to decide it would. If its base there of 40 or 50 parliamentary seats had been eroded, it might have sunk without trace during the 18 barren years of opposition.
After Tony Blair’s landslide in 1997, he set up a Scottish parliament. Gordon Brown and the other Scots in his cabinet told him this would kill off nationalism. They were wrong.
The Scottish parliament is too obviously a sop, just a sop, to nationalism. It has no real economic powers, yet the economy remains Scotland’s fundamental problem, with growth rates consistently behind English ones. Revenue from North Sea oil bypasses Scotland and goes straight to the Treasury in London.
Having no powers that count, the Scottish parliament has frittered away its energies on political correctness, on banning a selection of its dislikes from hunting to smoking, and on lecturing Scots about getting drunk and having fights. Perhaps this is worthy, but it is not why Scots voted to bring back their parliament. ...
Posted on: Monday, May 7, 2007 - 21:20
SOURCE: Globalist.com (5-7-07)
How should the remarkable tale of Shanghai’s resurgence be told? As Jeff Wasserstrom explains, an increasingly popular approach is to treat it as a sequel — a tale of a city finally getting back on the cosmopolitan capitalist track that it had followed during the treaty-port century (1843-1943), before being derailed by Japanese invasions and Maoism.
This Shanghai-is-back-as-an-East-meets-West metropolis storyline first gained prominence in the 1990s, as skyscrapers shot up in Pudong (East Shanghai) across the river from the grand neo-classical buildings of the Bund built three-quarters of a century earlier.
But it was during coverage of turn-of-the-millennium developments that the narrative gained momentum.
In 2000, it was trotted out when the city’s first Starbucks opened. In 2002, when an international touring company brought Les Miz to the sparkling new Grand Theater, the first Broadway show to reach an urban center whose residents circa 1930 considered theirs a New York-like metropolis.
And again in 2004, first when an Armani store opened on the Bund, and then when China’s first Grand Prix was held in Shanghai’s new state-of-the-art Formula One stadium. The Grand Prix stories were particularly interesting to place into a long-term perspective.
Seven decades before the Asian edition of Time Magazine played up the arrival of Formula One racing in a cover story on New Shanghai’s becoming the world’s “most happening” city, Fortune Magazine had run a special feature on Old Shanghai that also used a race track — one for horses — to symbolize the port’s ability to bring Occidental and Oriental features together....
One big difference is that Old Shanghai was subdivided into Chinese-run districts and foreign-run enclaves, but New Shanghai is a unified metropolis....
A second difference is a subtle, but telling shift in the way Shanghai is now compared to major Western cities. During the treaty-port century, when it was likened to Paris or New York, the implication was that it was the Chinese city with the best shot at someday catching up with those ultra-modern places....
The final difference is that Shanghai’s current internationalization is as much an East-meets-East as an Orient-meets-Occident phenomenon. Consider Japan’s role....
Posted on: Monday, May 7, 2007 - 21:12
SOURCE: NYT (5-6-07)
KUWAIT ONE of the most common criticisms of the current “surge” in Iraq is that its proponents have not developed a Plan B in case it fails. The skeptics liken this lack of a backup strategy to the Bush administration’s failure to plan for various contingencies after the initial invasion in 2003; they see a continuity of errors between previous strategies in Iraq and the new one.
In fact, the debate shows only how little the critics of the war understand about military operations. As one of the initial proponents of the surge, I argue that there is no Plan B because there cannot be one. The idea that there can be a single alternative strategy, developed now, just at the beginning of the surge, is antithetical to the dynamic nature of war. At this early stage, there are only possible general responses to various contingencies, which will become more focused as operations move forward.
The strategy now under way in Iraq — we are providing an increased number of American forces, working closely with Iraqi troops, to establish and maintain security in Baghdad as a precondition for political, economic and social progress — will change the situation in Iraq significantly, whether or not it succeeds in its aims.
In fact, it has already done so, and for the better: the rebel Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr has apparently fled to Iran; American and Iraqi forces have killed or captured more than 700 key leaders and allies of his Mahdi Army, causing the movement to fragment; sectarian killings in Baghdad in April were about one-third of the level in December....
Posted on: Monday, May 7, 2007 - 14:19
SOURCE: Britannica Blog (5-7-07)
... Why is Ronald Reagan still so relevant, and why should we care? Yale University political scientist Stephen Skowronek explains in his ground-breaking book The Politics Presidents Make that Ronald Reagan was a “reconstructive” leader who repudiated the New Deal liberal regime and built a new conservative regime in its place. Like Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, and FDR before him, Reagan found himself at a propitious moment in history; he recognized that the governing party was undergoing a crisis of legitimacy and rapidly losing its political authority. Like his reconstructive forbearers, Reagan was able to exploit the unraveling liberal consensus and establish new commitments of ideology and interest around which Republicans — and most Americans — could rally.
The four pillars of the new regime were: minimal taxes, minimal regulation, strong Christian values, and a strong defense. The new coalition joined together conservatives of all stripes: economic conservatives, social conservatives, and neoconservatives. It joined together ordinary Americans of all stripes, too: Evangelicals and Wall Street investors, blue-collar workers and small business owners. In 1984, Reagan won 49 states and turned the South red for a generation and counting. In my own work, I have found that Reagan also helped to build new organizational capacities in his party in order to provide a durable and potent foundation of support for the newly expanded coalition.
Reconstructive presidents don’t necessarily change everything about American government and politics — Reagan certainly didn’t — but they do redirect the currents of political authority and legitimacy coursing through the political landscape. When reconstructive presidents repudiate the failed regimes of the past and offer innovative alternatives, they shift the terms of debate; they grant legitimacy to new political agendas and policy solutions.
Reconstructing political authority, they blaze a path forward and force future political actors to define themselves in terms of that initial reconstruction. The reconstructive president resets the terms of national discourse in a way that makes his presidency — and the new politics he creates — the new reference point for future political contests.
The essence of what Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, and FDR did to American politics was to recast political commitments – they reset the clock on “political time,” as Skowronek calls it – and altered basic assumptions about who should do what, and for what purposes. They shifted the premises of political action by redefining meaning in American politics.
Reagan did all of these things, and left his three successors in the White House to grapple with what he left behind. In many ways, George W. Bush’s presidency is best seen in this light.
Over the next year and a half, the GOP candidates will almost certainly continue their quests to define themselves in terms of the still-resilient regime built by Ronald Reagan — each will try to claim the political authority to speak on behalf of those commitments.
So what does this mean for those of us who can’t help but keep an eye on the horse race? Well, I’ll be waiting to see who starts speaking Reagan Republicanism with the greatest fluency.
Posted on: Monday, May 7, 2007 - 13:50
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education (5-7-07)
... Europe as we once knew it is bound to change, probably out of recognition, for a number of reasons, partly demographic and cultural, but also political and social. Even if Europe should unite and solve the various domestic crises facing it, its predominant place in the world and predominant role in world affairs is a thing of the past. What kind of new Europe is likely to emerge as a successor to the old Continent? That, of course, is an open question, whose answer depends on events not only in Europe but also in other parts of the world.
Given the shrinking of its population, it is possible that Europe, or considerable parts of it, will turn into a cultural theme park, a kind of Disneyland on a level of a certain sophistication for well-to-do visitors from China and India, something like Brugge, Venice, Versailles, Stratford-on-Avon, or Rothenburg ob der Tauber on a larger scale. Some such parks already exist; when the coal mines in the Ruhr were closed down, the Warner Brothers Movie World was opened in Dortmund. This will be a Europe of tourist guides, gondoliers, and translators: "Ladies and gentlemen, you are visiting the scenes of a highly developed civilization that once led the world. It gave us Shakespeare, Beethoven, the welfare state, and many other fine things... ." There will be excursions for every taste; even now there are trips in Berlin to the slums and the areas considered dangerous ("Kreuzberg, the most colorful district: two hours").
That scenario may appear somewhat fanciful at the moment, but given current trends it is a possibility that cannot be dismissed out of hand. Tourism has been of paramount importance in Switzerland for a long time; it is now of great (and growing) importance in France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal, and some other countries. Tourism's average growth rate across Europe is 4 percent annually. In several European countries, it is becoming the most important single factor in the economy and the main earner of foreign exchange. By now the Chinese are the biggest-spending visitors in Paris.
It is equally possible that, having solved, one way or another, its internal social and economic problems to be able to compete again in world markets, and having gotten its political act together at least to some degree, Europe will find a place in the new world order likely to emerge, more modest than in the past but still respectable. That is the best-case scenario, but it is also possible that the general decline and deterioration may continue and even become more pronounced. Those scenarios, and perhaps some others in between, seem possible at the current time.
What appears impossible is that the 21st century will be the European century, as some observers, mainly in the United States, claimed even a few years ago. As they saw it, a united Europe not only had caught up with the American economy but was likely to soon overtake it. The countries of Europe were living in peace with one another and their neighbors. They had established a way of life, a model, more civilized and humane than any other. True, Europe was not exactly a political-military superpower, but through its "transformative power" as an example, it was changing the world. In brief, the rest of the world was becoming more and more like Europe, moving toward an order that was more just and humane than any in the annals of mankind.
But Europe did not move closer together, and it did not catch up and overtake America. On the contrary, it found it more and more difficult to compete with China and India. The character of power in world politics did not radically change, and the predictions of yesterday seemed more and more detached from the facts of the real world. And the question inevitably arose how such hallucinations could have arisen in the first place....
Posted on: Monday, May 7, 2007 - 12:13
SOURCE: New York Sun (5-1-07)
"If today's Arab anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish propaganda strongly resembles that of the Third Reich, there is a good reason." So writes Joel Fishman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs in"The Big Lie and the Media War against Israel," an insightful piece of historical research.
Fishman begins by noting the topsy-turvy situation whereby Israel is perceived as a dangerous predator as it defends its citizens against terrorism, conventional warfare, and weapons of mass destruction. A 2003 survey, for instance, found Europeans seeing Israel as"the greatest threat" to world peace. How did this insane inversion of reality – the Middle East's only fully free and democratic country seen as the leading global menace – come to be?
Fishman's answer revisits World War I, which is not a surprise, as post-cold war analysts increasingly recognize the extent to which Europe lives still under the shadow of that disaster, whether in its renewed policy of appeasement or its attitudes towards its own culture. Back then, the British government first exploited advances in mass media and advertising to target both the enemy's and its own civilian populations, hoping to shape their thinking.
The Central Powers' publics heard messages designed to undermine support for their governments, while Entente publics were fed news reports about atrocities, some of them false. Notably, the British authorities claimed that Imperial Germany had a"Corpse Conversion Factory" (Kadaververwerkungsanstalt), that plundered enemy dead soldiers' bodies to produce soap and other products. After the war's conclusion, when the British learned the truth, these lies left a residue of what Fishman calls"skepticism, betrayal, and a mood of postwar nihilism."
This British disinformation campaign had two disastrous implications for World War II. First, it prompted the Allied public to be skeptical concerning German atrocities against Jews, which bore a close resemblance to the imaginary horrors the British had disseminated, so that reports from Nazi-occupied territories were regularly discounted. (This explains why Dwight D. Eisenhower arranged for visits to the concentration camps immediately upon their liberation, to witness and document their reality.)
Second, Hitler admiringly noted the British precedent in his book, Mein Kampf (1925):"At first the claims of the [British] propaganda were so impudent that people thought it insane; later, it got on people's nerves; and in the end, it was believed." A decade later, this admiration translated into the Nazi"Big Lie" that turned reality on its head, making Jews into persecutors and Germans into victims. A vast propaganda machine then drummed these lies into the German-speakers' psyche, with great success.
The defeat of Germany temporarily discredited such methods of inverting reality. But some escaped Nazis carried their old antisemitic ambitions to countries now at war with Israel and attempting to murder its Jewish population. Thousands of Nazis found refuge in Egypt, with smaller numbers reaching other Arabic-speaking countries, notably Syria.
One of Johann von Leers' antisemitic tracts,"Juden sehen dich an" (Jews are watching you).
Fishman examines particularly the case of Johann von Leers (1902-65), an early Nazi party member, a protégé of Goebbels, a lifelong associate of Himmler, and an overt advocate of genocidal policies against Jews. His 1942 article,"Judaism and Islam as Opposites," lauded Muslims for their"eternal service" of keeping Jews"in a state of oppression and anxiety." This von Leers escaped Germany after 1945 and a decade later turned up in Egypt, where he converted to Islam and became political adviser to Nasser's Department of Information. There, Fishman recounts, he"sponsored the publication of an Arabic edition of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, revived the blood libel, organized anti-Semitic broadcasts in numerous languages, cultivated neo-Nazis throughout the world, and maintained a warm correspondence encouraging the first generation of Holocaust deniers."
Such groundwork proved its value after Israel's historic victory in the Six Day War of 1967, a humiliating defeat for both the Soviet Union and its Arab allies. The subsequent Soviet-Arab propaganda campaign denied Israel the right to defend itself and inverted reality by relentlessly accusing it of aggression. Precisely as Hitler had analyzed in Mein Kampf, if these impudent claims were at first thought insane, in the end they were believed.
Today's political madness, in other words, is directly linked to yesterday's. Might some of today's anti-Zionists be ashamed to realize that their thinking is, however repackaged, but an elaboration of the genocidal deceptions espoused by Hitler, Goebbels, and Himmler? Might they then abandon these views?
This article is reprinted with permission by Daniel Pipes. This article first appeared in the New York Sun.
Posted on: Friday, May 4, 2007 - 22:34
SOURCE: Special to HNN (5-3-07)
He has his own blog at http://nasir-khan.blogspot.com through which he can be contacted.]
Present-day images of Muslims and Islam in Western media vary considerably. However, since the collapse of the Soviet Union the general drift of Western concerns has been to portray Islam as the main enemy of the West and the Muslim world as a hotbed of terrorism that threatens Western civilisation and its democratic values. Thus in the present-day hegemonic world order -- under which all norms of civilised behaviour in the conduct of foreign policy have been discarded by the Bush Administration and its allies in London and Tel Aviv -- Muslims are associated with terrorism. We have seen over the last few years the expansion of President Bush’s destructive war, the inhuman treatment of captive population of Iraq and Afghanistan, rampant abuse of prisoners from Muslim countries by American and British forces, total indifference towards the human rights of prisoners of war or of those suspected of resisting or opposing the American occupation of their countries and false propaganda to cover up the real objectives and crimes against humanity of the neocon rulers in Washington and London.
Needless to say, the so-called ‘Islamic challenge’ is based on assumptions that have no basis in reality. They misrepresent, distort and mislead rather than enlighten and inform. Over the last fifteen years a number of publications have appeared that have borne sensational titles like ‘Sword of Islam’, ‘The Islamic Threat’, ‘The Roots of Muslim Rage’, ‘Islam’s New Battle Cry’ and ‘What went wrong with Islam?’. They reveal the sort of preconceived image of Islam their writers had intended to convey to their readers. According to such projections, Islam is a challenge to Western values as well as to West’s economic and political interests. But in view of the real power wielded by the West in general and America in particular throughout the Middle East and beyond, the so-called ‘threat of Islam’ is quite groundless.
But right-wing political manipulators and Christian fundamentalists can very easily provoke major crises between the Muslim world and the West; we have only to recall the case of the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The real aim of some Danish and Norwegian right-wing newspapers to publish these cartoons was to provoke hostile reactions from Muslims and thus cause more bitterness and resentment between Muslims and Christians. They tried to cover up their anti-Islamic campaign behind the smokescreen of the argument that publishing the cartoons was a demonstration of the West’s freedom of expression. They were xenophobic, racist and disrespectful of immigrant cultures in Europe and the Islamic culture in particular. How could hurting the feelings of over one billion Muslims was to serve the interests of free Press, freedom of expression or civil liberties? An anti-Islam fundamentalist Christian by the name of Mr Selbekk, the Norwegian editor of Magazinet reprinted the cartoons which were first published in Denmark. He was asked if he would also publish any cartoons that insulted Jesus, said: No. Thus this gentleman’s vaunted ideal of ‘freedom of expression’ was limited to insulting the Prophet Muhammad and obviously did not extend to insulting the gods, prophets and spiritual avatars of any other major religion.
However, it is important to look at the strategic goals of such editors and publishers. They did succeed in their objective, which was to cause maximum provocation to Muslims worldwide and to create an atmosphere of contempt and hatred towards them among the followers of other religions. Muslims were predictably and understandably offended and their reactions led to some horrible incidents in various parts of the globe. What those who reacted violently did not realise was that they had fallen in the trap of anti-Muslim mischief-mongers, who, through provocation had achieved their goal. Now the stage was set to repeat the old charge: Muslims were fanatics, volatile and irrational — they were ‘terrorists’! The divide between ‘us’ and ‘them’ as cultural opposites was reinforced and widened.
The anti-Muslim media keep on churning out the common stereotypes that portray Muslims, compared to Westerners, as more prone to conflict and violence. These media publish accounts of conflicts in the Muslim countries as self-evident truths to reinforce the image. There is a general tendency to oversimplify or ignore altogether diverse trends and complex socio-economic factors that lead to instability and conflicts in various Muslim countries. The explanations offered and conclusions drawn sometimes are based on implicit, but more often, explicit assumptions about the superiority of Western, ‘Judaeo-Christian’ culture, while the Islamic world is thought to be an epicentre of brutality and disharmony.
A very common stereotype in the Western media is that Islamic countries are inherently prone to violence, fanaticism, medieval ideas and prejudices. This means that Islam, both as a religion and as a cultural influence, is to bear the responsibility for all such regional ills. The West is the harbinger of sweetness and light (but occasionally also darkness and misery), peace and civility (but occasionally predatory wars and barbarism), rationality and open-mindedness (but occasionally irrationality, racism and prejudice, and always is focused on its own interests). All those who have taken the trouble to look at the last few centuries’ history of Western colonialism, extending from the time of the so-called ‘discoveries’ of America by Columbus in 1492 and of India by Vasco de Gama in 1498 by sea routes, the ‘discovery’ of Africa by the European for slave trade show the ‘noble’ hands of Western nations that were extended to the people of Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia have left their marks on every continent. We cannot go into historical details here. But the global expansion of Western colonialism is the story of plunder and destruction across continents. No doubt, the seeds of Western civilisation were sown in this way. Within Western societies, the internal conflicts, violence and wars present us with a gory history. This superior culture when seen in the limited sphere of geopolitics and international relations in the last one hundred years only leaves a legacy of two World Wars, more wars (Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq), invasions and coups (Guatemala, Grenada, Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, Chile, Argentina, Congo, southern Africa), concentration camps, racist massacres undertaken on a large scale by the flag-bearers of Western civilisation.
It is obvious that cultural differences between nations and peoples of the world are a fact of history. And in this context generalising about cultural differences is unavoidable. But in no way can such differences be equated with mutual exclusiveness or inevitable hostility between different cultures. Where the initial instinct is not to enter into an anthropological or historical study of comparative cultures, but rather to foment strife and hatred between nations and religions for ulterior motives the consequences can be disastrous. Let us take the events in the aftermath of the bombing of Oklahoma City in the United States on 19 April 1995. The media rushed to spread rumours that a ‘Middle Eastern man’ [i.e. a Muslim Arab] was responsible for the carnage. As a result Muslims throughout the United States were targeted for physical abuse, rough treatment and social ostracism. Their mosques were desecrated, Muslim women were harassed and cars belonging to ‘Middle Easterns’ damaged. A British newspaper Today published on its front page a frightening picture of a fireman carrying the burnt remains of a dead child under the headline ‘In the name of Islam’. Identifying the perpetrator of such a reprehensible act alone would not be sufficient; Islam also had to be brought in to ignite the communal passions of people against members of another faith. However, it soon became evident that the bomber was a fair-haired American soldier, a decorated Gulf War (1991) veteran. The religion of this right-wing terrorist was not Islam but Christianity. But no one in either American or British media labelled him a ‘Christian terrorist’ or apologised to Muslims for the wrongs done to them. Once again the freedom to tell the truth and report events fairly had taken a back seat.
The second instance is the 11 September 2001 attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon by a few persons, most of whom came from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a close ally of America. They saw the policies pursued by the US in the Middle East and its support for the anachronistic rule by the House of Saud as the stumbling block towards a fair social order in their country as well as the rest of the Middle East. No matter what the nature of their grievances, I regard this attack terribly wrong. It provided ammunition to the neocons and right-wing fanatics in Washington to unleash the reign of terror, war, death and destruction in the Middle East and the petroleum regions in the general vicinity. At the same time, we ask a simple question: What had these bombings to do with millions of ordinary Muslim citizens of Europe and America? The answer is: nothing whatsoever. We witnessed that they were victimised everywhere by many white Westerners in the most grotesque and despicable ways.
During my stay in Europe for more than four decades, I have become acutely aware that the negative images of Islam and Islamic civilisation need a serious historical analysis for general readers as well as academic scholars that enables us to rise above oft-repeated and worn-out clichés of media and partisan scholarship and thus show the facts of the problematic relations between the two world religions and their civilisations. My book Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms (2006) deals with these themes and issues. It is clear that both Islam and the West suffer from the perceptual problems of adversary relationship going far back in history. Their mutual perceptions have been distorted by religious dogmas, political developments and traditional prejudices. If we take a look at the history of European colonial expansion in Americas, Australia and in the East (China, India, the Middle East and North Africa, etc.) the old balance of power between the East and the West had changed. The colonial power over other nations also strengthened the collective consciousness of the industrial West, or its assumption that it was more powerful and therefore superior to the rest of the world. The colonised and subjugated people also started to perceive the West as materially, culturally, and morally superior. It is true the West was superior in producing machines, modern weaponry and efficient armies to invade and subjugate other countries of the world. This made Western nations more powerful, but that did not mean they were morally or intellectually superior. But the subjugated races were not in a position to advance such challenging views. In such uneven power relations under colonialism no genuine communication was possible. The same is true of the current neo-colonial war in Iraq by the Bush Administration to achieve full control over the oil resources and assert political hegemony over the entire Middle East.
The Western ways to see Islam as a monolithic religious and political force is against all historical facts and contemporary political realities. Islam is not a monolithic force; the diversity within the Islamic world is wider than most Westerners think. Within three decades after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslim community split into Sunni and Shia factions following a civil war. This division proved to be permanent, and further divisions within the two main branches have characterised Islamic faith and polity for fourteen centuries. The spread of Islam followed different paths in different countries and regions of the world. At present over one billion people of all races, languages, nationalities and cultures are Muslims. Their socio-cultural conditions as well as their doctrinal affiliations show much diversity and complexity. What this means is that Islam as a universal religion, like Christianity, is not a monolithic entity; this is despite the fact that Muslims share some fundamental beliefs in One God and His revelations through the prophets.
However, historical and religious traditions and myths have a life of their own. Once they have become part of a culture they continue to shape and restructure the collective consciousness of vast populations. The anti-Islamic tradition in the Christendoms has a long historical pedigree and it continues to be a dynamic factor affecting and determining international relations. The study of history helps us to see facts in their historical evolutionary process and thus lighten the cultural baggage that has often poisoned relationships between the two religious communities. An honest and balanced study of the past and the present-day geopolitical realities of the global hegemonic world order means that we no longer have to passively accept distorted legacies and close our eyes to what is happening in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, and also in Pakistan at the hands of the United States, its allies and the marionette Muslim ruling cliques.
The question of ‘Islamic terrorism’, the denial of women’s rights under Islam and the alleged irreconcilability of Islamic and Western values appear all the time in the Western media. But such accusations reveal a deep-rooted ignorance and confusion. They have no relationship to reality. We should bear in mind that a follower of a religion is not necessarily a true representative or spokesperson of that religion. Neither can the individual acts of terrorism, state-terrorism or superpower-terrorism be imputed to religion whether it be Christianity, Judaism, Islam or Hinduism. If an individual or group from a Muslim community resorts to extremism in political or religious spheres for whatever reason or commits a crime, the general tendency is to hold the whole Islamic tradition responsible. What happens if someone from Western culture or a Christian right-wing extremist resorts to violence or commits a crime? He is held responsible as an individual and no one blames the Western culture or Christianity for his actions. Do we not have some powerful leaders in the West who are Christian right-wingers and are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Muslim men, women and children? Does anyone blame Christianity for that? We ask these questions and expect our readers to ask these questions and then try to find some answers.
With regard to women, the Qur’an gave them legal rights of inheritance and divorce in the seventh-century, which Western women would not receive until the 19th or 20th century. There is nothing in Islam about obligatory veiling of women or their seclusion, either. In fact, such practices came into Islam about three generations after the death of the Prophet Muhammad under the influence of the Greek Christians of Byzantium. In fact there has been a high degree of cultural interaction between Christians and Muslims from the beginning of Islamic history.
The fundamental values of fraternity, respect, justice and peace are common in all the major civilisations and the five major religions. To call democracy ‘a Western value’ is simply bizarre; the monarchical system prevailed in Europe where the kings held absolute powers under the divine right to rule. The evolution of democratic and constitutional form of government took shape much later. Contrary to what the media and populist politicians assert, there is nothing in Islam that goes against democracy and democratic values.
Posted on: Friday, May 4, 2007 - 02:40
SOURCE: AlterNet (5-3-07)
One letter, signed John M. Cabot, U.S. Ambassador Retired, declared his"great indignation" and pointed out that Governor Fuller's affirmation of the death sentence was made after a special review by"three of Massachusetts' most distinguished and respected citizens -- President Lowell of Harvard, President Stratton of MIT and retired Judge Grant."
Those three"distinguished and respected citizens" were viewed differently by Heywood Broun, who wrote in his column for the New York World immediately after the Governor's panel made its report. He wrote:
It is not every prisoner who has a President of Harvard University throw on the switch for him .... If this is a lynching, at least the fish peddler and his friend the factory hand may take unction to their souls that they will die at the hands of men in dinner jackets or academic gowns.
Heywood Broun, one of the most distinguished journalists of the twentieth century, did not last long as a columnist for the New York World.
On that fiftieth year after the execution, The New York Times reported that:"Plans by Mayor Beame to proclaim next Tuesday 'Sacco and Vanzetti Day' have been canceled in an effort to avoid controversy, a City Hall spokesman said yesterday."
There must be good reason why a case fifty-years-old, now over seventy-five years old, arouses such emotion. I suggest that it is because to talk about Sacco and Vanzetti inevitably brings up matters that trouble us today -- our system of justice, the relationship between war fever and civil liberties, and most troubling of all, the ideas of anarchism: the obliteration of national boundaries and therefore of war, the elimination of poverty, the creation of a full democracy.
The case of Sacco and Vanzetti revealed, in its starkest terms, that the noble words inscribed above our courthouses"Equal Justice Before the Law" have always been a lie. Those two men, the fish peddler and the shoemaker, could not get justice in the American system -- because justice is not meted out equally to the poor and the rich, the native-born and the foreign-born, the orthodox and the radical, the white and the person of color. And while injustice may play itself out today more subtly and in more intricate ways than it did in the crude circumstances of the Sacco and Vanzetti case, its essence remains....
When Eugene Debs and a thousand others were sent to prison during World War I, under the Espionage Act, was it because they were guilty of espionage? Hardly. They were socialists who spoke out against the war. In affirming the ten-year sentence of Debs, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes made it clear why Debs must go to prison. He quoted from Debs' speech:"The master class has always declared the wars, the subject class has always fought the battles."
Holmes, much admired as one of our great liberal jurists, made clear the limits of liberalism, its boundaries set by a vindictive nationalism. After all the appeals of Sacco and Vanzetti had been exhausted, the case was put before Holmes, sitting on the Supreme Court. He refused to review the case, thus letting the verdict stand.
In our time, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were sent to the electric chair. Was it because they were guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union? Or was it because they were Communists, as the prosecutor made clear, with the approval of the judge? Was it also because the country was in the midst of anti-Communist hysteria, Communists had just taken power in China, there was a war in Korea, and the weight of all that could be borne by two American Communists?
Why was George Jackson, in California, sentenced to ten years in prison for a seventy-dollar robbery, and then shot to death by guards? Was it because he was poor, black, and radical?
Can a Muslim today, in the atmosphere of the"war on terrorism" be given equal justice before the law? Why was my upstairs neighbor, a dark-skinned Brazilian who might look like a Middle East Muslim, pulled out of his car by police, though he had violated no regulation, and questioned and humiliated?
Why are the two million people in American jails and prisons, and six million people under parole, probation, or surveillance, disproportionately people of color, disproportionately poor? A study showed that seventy percent of the people in New York state prisons came from seven neighborhoods in New York City-neighborhoods of poverty and desperation.
Class injustice cuts across every decade, every century of our history. In the midst of the Sacco Vanzetti case, a wealthy man in the town of Milton, south of Boston, shot and killed a man who was gathering firewood on his property. He spent eight days in jail, then was let out on bail, and was not prosecuted. The district attorney called it"justifiable homicide." One law for the rich, one law for the poor-a persistent characteristic of our system of justice.
But being poor was not the chief crime of Sacco and Vanzetti. They were Italians, immigrants, anarchists. It was less than two years from the end of the first World War. They had protested against the war. They had refused to be drafted. They saw hysteria mount against radicals and foreigners, observed the raids carried out by Attorney General Palmer's agents in the Department of Justice, who broke into homes in the middle of the night without warrants, held people incommunicado, and beat them with clubs and blackjacks....
Posted on: Thursday, May 3, 2007 - 21:43